Will lawmakers give voters a voice?

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The State’s electronic bingo referendum took an important step forward on Tuesday as the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee voted 6-2 in favor of putting the issue to a statewide vote.

The proposed constitutional amendment now goes before the entire Senate for debate and a vote, which could take place as early as Thursday.

And although our state Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, has indicated that he believes the courts should decide the legality of the electronic bingo, we urge him and the other senators to pass this proposed legislation and put this issue before the voters of Alabama.

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As it’s written, the constitutional amendment would allow electronic bingo machines in 10 locations around the state, including several where the machines have been operating (such as Victoryland and Country Crossing in Dothan) and several new locations, including the Birmingham Race Course. The bill would impose a 25 percent tax on the revenues generated by the machines (net after winnings are paid) with 5 percent of the tax proceeds going to the counties and the remaining 20 percent going to the state, to be used for education and Medicaid.

Ironically, folks on both sides of the gaming debate are calling for the right to vote on this bill. Proponents say legalizing electronic gaming will generate much-needed tax revenue for the state. Opponents say putting the issue to vote will once and for all show how much opposition lies within the state to legalized gambling.

Either way, we believe the people of Alabama deserve to have a say in the issue.

Tuesday’s committee vote was the first step. Will lawmakers follow through and give the voters a voice?